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Cal State L.A. receives $3.3 million NSF research and education grant

September 14, 2015

Five-year grant will fund program with Penn State University in materials science, engineering

Los Angeles—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Cal State L.A. a $3.3 million grant to launch a research and education partnership with Penn State University to help students pursue graduate degrees in materials science and engineering.

The five-year grant aims to diversify the pool of students under the NSF Partnership for Research in Education and Materials (PREM). A majority of the 70 students involved in the program will be from underrepresented communities and will conduct research at Cal State L.A. and Penn State.

The program will strengthen Cal State L.A.’s role as a regional leader in materials research and build a partnership with Penn State’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. A primary goal will be to establish an M.S. degree in materials science and engineering at Cal State L.A. that will serve as a bridge for students to pursue doctoral degrees at Penn State or other leading universities. 

Professors from Cal State L.A. will also oversee summer research programs with students from Roosevelt, Garfield, Lincoln and Wilson high schools, which are in neighborhoods served by the University.

“Cal State L.A. has been a leader in graduating students from underrepresented communities who pursue Ph.D. degrees in science and engineering,” University President William A. Covino said. “Our collaboration with Penn State University will enhance our efforts to help diversify and enrich the pool of doctoral candidates in these critical fields.”

The multidisciplinary program will involve 10 professors from Cal State L.A. and seven professors from Penn State. Professors Oscar Bernal of Cal State L.A. and Vincent Crespi of Penn State are leading the effort.

“This award is a great example of the benefits that derive from efforts by our faculty at promoting research and education in the field of materials and represents the commitment of our University to promote the direct involvement of students from underrepresented groups in the development of our nation,” said Bernal, who was the principal investigator for the grant.

Bernal will oversee the team of faculty from Cal State L.A.’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology and College of Natural and Social Sciences, which will house the PREM program.

“We expect that the relationship with Penn State will lead to opportunities for some of our students to attend Ph.D. programs at Penn State or elsewhere, and our faculty to make contributions to cutting-edge fields,“ said Scott Bowman, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences.

Added Emily Allen, dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology: “This NSF funding will provide a great opportunity for Cal State L.A. undergraduates and master’s students to gain hands-on research experience at the cutting edge of material science and engineering.”

Across the nation, there are a dozen PREM centers funded by the NSF. This year, Cal State L.A. was one of six minority-serving universities nationwide selected for funding from a large number of applicants.

Cal State L.A. is a master’s granting and undergraduate university. About 57 percent of the students are Latino and approximately 60 percent are women. Many of them are first-generation college students.

Photo: Wallis Annenberg Integrated Sciences Complex, which houses the College of Natural and Social Sciences. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores)

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